The story of the day Sunday at Target Field was Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Justin Masterson.
The Indians’ All-Star took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and exited the ball game three outs later with seven innings under his belt. He allowed just one broken bat hit and one run on the ball game. He struck out eight, hit one batter, and did not walk any Twins players.
“I thought he came out a little strong because of [the All-Star break],” said Terry Francona. “I think he had tremendous pop on his fastball but he threw a lot of strikes. It took him a while to find his slider but his two-seamer has a ton of movement on it, a lot of life. But I thought it was a long layoff for him but I thought he managed it really well.”
After losing the no-hitter, the Indians extend the second longest active streak of games without a hitless game pitched (Len Barker – June 15th, 1981). The San Diego Padres, established in 1969, have yet to throw a no-hitter in their history.
“He looked sharp today,” said Jason Kipnis about Masterson’s effort. “He was on his A-game and he showed why he was our top rotation guy and an All-Star this year. He came out there and did exactly what we needed out of him. He’s going to get us a W more times than not.”
“He pitched phenomenal,” said Michael Brantley of Masterson. “He was hitting all of his spots, mixing in all of his off-speeds. And he was working quick. When he does that, it’s fun to play behind, because you know you’ll get back in the dugout really quick.”
Masterson (11-7) was able to do what he did on the mound due to the support at the plate from his offense, just one day after fellow All-Star Kipnis called out his teammates and challenged them to start “stepping up”.
The Indians got on the board in the top of the second against left-hander Scott Diamond. After a groundout by Carlos Santana, Mark Reynolds drew just his fourth walk in 13 games in the month of July. He advanced to second on a fielder’s choice grounder to second base, as Pedro Florimon was unable to beat Reynolds to the bag on the play. A sharp single to left by Ryan Raburn moved all runners up 90 feet and a sacrifice fly to right field scored Reynolds to give Cleveland a 1-0 lead.
The Indians tacked on two more to lead off the third. Asdrubal Cabrera bounced the baseball over the glove of third baseman Trevor Plouffe, reaching on error according to the official scorer. Kipnis stepped in and gave fans déjà vu, driving a fastball from Diamond over the wall in left field for an opposite field two-run home run. With his 15th blast of the season, Kipnis is now tied with Reynolds for the team lead in home runs.
“When you get locked in,” said Kipnis, “you try not to change too much. If I keep a good short swing I can recognize pitches a little bit more, stay through the zone, and that’s how you get the line drives the other way.”
“He just has that stroke that when he hits the ball with authority the other way,” said Francona, “he gets rewarded for it.”
Cleveland ripped the game wide open in the top of the fifth against Diamond. Cabrera was robbed of at least extra bases and maybe even a home run on a deep flyout to left fielder Clete Thomas. Kipnis was walked on four pitches and moved to second on a hard hit single by Nick Swisher. Santana followed with a single of his own to load the bases with one out. After Reynolds popped up in foul territory weakly for the second out, Brantley delivered a clutch, two-out bases clearing triple to push three Indians runners across the plate and end the day of the Minnesota lefty.
Brantley now has 51 RBI on the season. His previous career-best was 60, set last season.
“I got a good pitch and put a good swing on it,” said Brantley. “I’m not trying to do too much. I hit a hard line drive and it found a hole. Luckily it worked out for the team today.”
Diamond (5-9) was charged with six runs (five earned) on seven hits in four and two-thirds innings. He walked three Cleveland batters today, after only issuing one walk in 23 innings against the Indians last season.
The Twins ended the no-hitter and the shutout for Masterson leading off the bottom of the seventh. A broken bat flare to center by Brian Dozier squeezed just under the glove of Drew Stubbs and went for a double. He moved to third on a groundout and scored on an error by Kipnis at second off of the bat of Joe Mauer.
“Every time Drew goes after a ball, I think he’s going to get it,” said Francona. “He’s so good that I just always think he’s going to catch it. He gave it everything he had.”
Minnesota threatened briefly in the eighth after reliever C.C. Lee walked Doug Bernier on four pitches. After striking out Thomas, he walked Aaron Hicks and was relieved by Cody Allen, who got a soft liner up the middle to Cabrera at second base, who tagged the bag and threw on to first to retire Florimon to end the inning.
Cleveland added an insurance run in the ninth on an RBI-single by Kipnis. The hit pushed his batting average to .303 on the season.
Dozier added a leadoff double in the bottom of the ninth off of Chris Perez but was unable to score. He had each of the Twins’ two hits on the night.
“We had the full package today,” said Kipnis. “Obviously the pitching is going really well. And then the hitting. We had guys on base; even when we didn’t score runs, we had chances during the game.”
With the win, the Indians (52-46) leave Minnesota in the same spot in the standings as they entered town. They remain one and one-half games behind the Detroit Tigers, who salvaged their series with the Kansas City Royals on Sunday afternoon.
The Indians head to Seattle for a three game series starting Monday night at 10:10 PM ET. Ubaldo Jimenez (7-4, 4.56) will face Aaron Harang (4-8, 5.38). Catch all of the game action on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and on the radio affiliates of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network.
Photo: AP Photo/Jim Mone